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Rabbit Awareness Week

This year's Rabbit Awareness Week is being held from 17th-25th June 2017.

Rabbits are popular family pets, but not many owners understand some of the health-risks that rabbits can face. It is very important for a rabbit's well-being and happiness that their owner's understand a rabbit's dietary needs, along with the common diseases and external parasites that they may face:

Diet


Rabbits are known as “fibrevores” because fibre is absolutely essential for their dental, digestive and emotional health. The ideal rabbit diet should consist of:

1.    Good quality dust extracted hay and grass - this should form most of your rabbit’s diet as they are high in fibre and the chewing action helps to wear down their constantly growing teeth. The hay should be placed in an elevated rack to prevent the rabbits contaminating it with their urine and faeces.


2.    A balanced pellet style rabbit food - avoid colourful muesli style mixes which can result in selective feeding, meaning your rabbit will pick out their favourite bits and will not get all the nutrients it needs.


3.    A small amount of fresh greens- a teacup per day is enough for an adult Netherland Dwarf Rabbit. Avoid carrots and fruit which can be high in sugar and starch and should only be fed as an occasional treat. Kale, spinach and savoy cabbage are ideal greens to feed.


4.    A plentiful supply of fresh, clean water must always be available.

Vaccinations & infectious diseases

Myxomatosis

Myxomatosis is caused by a virus spread by fleas, mites & biting flies such as mosquitoes. It can also be spread by direct contact between infected rabbits.First signs include puffy swellings around the head and face, which can become so severe over a few days that they can cause blindness. Eating & drinking becomes progressively more difficult and death usually follows around 12 days, or euthanasia is often necessary to prevent suffering.

Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD)

Also known as Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD), this is a very serious condition which causes high fever, internal bleeding and liver disease. It is usually rapidly fatal and is spread by direct contact between rabbits (both wild and domesticated) and also by indirect contact via insect transport, clothing, shoes etc. Regular flea & fly control can help to lower the risk of infection.

We are now able to offer a single, annual vaccination to protect against both of these diseases.

External Parasites

Flystrike

Flystrike is a common, extremely distressing and often fatal disease occuring mainly in warm weather. When a rabbit’s rear end becomes soiled with faeces and urine this attracts flies, which lay eggs on damaged skin or in the soiled fur. These eggs then hatch into maggots that eat away at tissues in the surrounding area, which can result in so much suffering that affected rabbits are often put to sleep. Flystrike can be prevented by checking your pet thoroughly, feeding a correct diet and removing any wet or soiled bedding every day. We can also advise you on a suitable insect
repellent.

Fleas

The fleas affecting pet rabbits are the same kind that can be found on other pets and in the home, however it is essential that they should only be treated by products specially designed for rabbits, as other pet’s flea treatments can be harmful and in some cases fatal. We are able to advise you about a spot-on treatment that is
perfectly safe for rabbits - just ask!

There are a number of other parasites that can affect your rabbit such as lice and mites. Our trained nurses will be able to advise you on the best treatment available should you have any concerns.

Housing

Rabbits are often kept in small hutches for long periods of time. The hutch should actually only be viewed as your rabbits’ ‘bedroom’.  It should ideally be permanently attached to a much larger run or exercise area, so your rabbits can decide when they go outside to stretch their legs. The hutch should be big enough to allow for a minimum of 3 hops, should allow the rabbit to stand upright without it's ears touching the roof and spacious enough for it to lie down and stretch out fully. Remember that if you are housing more than one rabbit, the hutch should be big enough for every rabbit to perform these actions comfortably.

Our trained nurses will be able to advise you further on all of the above topics and more!

Lots more information can also be found on the Rabbit Awareness Week website.

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